Cleveland National Forest Visitor Center, which is close to the south main divide road. The turnout to the visitor center is just before the Ortega Highway starts to head down into the Lake Elsinore area. A map of the area can be found below via the Google map.
An alternate turnout option is to make a right on the south main divide and make an immediate left into the fire fighter memorial. From the memorial, walk down the south main divide road, to pick up the trail. A Forest Adventure Pass is needed for parking in both locations. There is also plenty of parking at both locations.
The trail is a single track uneven dirt trail. Additionally, there are informational plaques along the hike with information describing the local plant and animal life found in the Southern California. The El Cariso Nature Trail hike has very little elevation gain and is not strenuous at all. Please use caution when crossing the south main divide road as it is a busy road. The trail goes through a section of the Cleveland National Forest where reforestation of pine trees has been very successful. It is amazing to walk through a pine forest in the backyard of Orange County at and elevation of about 3,000 feet. Remember to always be ready with your cameras as you could encounter wildlife at anytime while on this fun Southern California Day Hike.
Visitor Center hours are Friday 12-5:30, Saturday 9-5:30, Sunday 9-4:30. The center is located next to the El Cariso fire station off of the Ortega Highway at 32353 Ortega Highway Elsinore, CA 92530 Phone number 951-678-3700.
Penny Pines Program to further explain the process for those that are interested to learn more about how reforestation occurs in our local Southern California Mountains.
Rating: Elevation Gain: Minimal (Easy), Distance: 1.2 Miles Roundtrip (Easy).
Time to Complete Hike: 20 - 30 minutes.
MORE TRAIL WRITE-UPS ON THE EL CARISO NATURE TRAIL